The Ignorance Addiction

Once common advertising of today's criminal drugsJack Shafer at Slate:

“If I were maximum dictator,
I would force every newspaper editor, every magazine editor, and every television producer in the land to read Ben Wallace-Wells’ 15,000-word article in the new (Dec. 13) issue of Rolling Stone, titled ‘How America Lost the War on Drugs.'”

All told, the United States has spent an estimated $500 billion to fight drugs – with very little to show for it.

Cocaine is now as cheap as it was when Escobar died and more heavily used.

Methamphetamine, barely a presence in 1993, is now used by 1.5 million Americans and may be more addictive than crack.

We have nearly 500,000 people behind bars for drug crimes – a twelvefold increase since 1980 – with no discernible effect on the drug traffic.

Virtually the only success the government can claim is the decline in the number of Americans who smoke marijuana – and even on that count, it is not clear that federal prevention programs are responsible.

In the course of fighting this war, we have allowed our military to become pawns in a civil war in Colombia and our drug agents to be used by the cartels for their own ends.

Those we are paying to wage the drug war have been accused of ­human-rights abuses in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia. In Mexico, we are now ­repeating many of the same mistakes we have made in the Andes.

For all the money the government has spent and all the people it’s jailed, it’s still failed to make a long-term impact on the availability of drugs.

The militarized drug-control techniques favored by the Bush administration have increased violence and political corruption abroad, violated human rights, and destabilized several Latin American nations.

Shafer continues:
There is no reason that this project couldn’t have been conceived and executed by any newspaper in America. No reason except that too many editors, most of whom have indulged in illicit substances, fear the consequences of telling their readers the truth about drugs (canceled subscriptions, invective from Limbaugh and O’Reilly, loss of respect at the country club or university club).

Wallace-Wells believes that a heavily subsidized drug-treatment program, think-tanked to the top of the Clinton administration’s policy pile, could have reduced crime and drug use if Newt Gingrich and the Republicans hadn’t taken complete control of Congress.